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The first picture of a girl is a screenshot from the travel video that i am making, and and the second picture of a boy is a screenshot from a youtube travel video. I want to achieve the quality of the second screenshot. How can I do that? Is the difference mainly a result of different equipment, ability to frame a shot, camera settings, lens, natural lighting, post-production or something else? How can I get a sharp video like that? The third shot (of sweet potatoes) is also a screenshot from my video and that is much different than my first shot. Both of my shots were most likely shot at low ISO (lower than 800), 1.8 aperture and 60fps.

Shot 1 Screenshot from my video Shot 2 Screenshot from the youtube video - desired result Shot 3 Sweetpotatoes from my video

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  • Could it have to do with holding the camera steady? – Singh Jan 8 '18 at 6:00
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    what exactly you are looking for? Do you want sharper images? Different contrast? Since images are so different, you need to specify – aaaaaa Jan 8 '18 at 6:16
  • That's what I was trying to ask in the question until it was edited. I am an amateur and I can't figure out why my videos aren't of the same quality as the ones I see online. I do have a very basic camera but I believe that it's not the equipment but the technique as sometimes (by chance?) I shoot some scene that are of great quality. Pic 1 and 3 are screenshots from my video. Pic 2 is a screenshot from someone's vid- that is the quality i want in my videos. How can I do that? – Singh Jan 9 '18 at 1:38
  • @aaaaaa these are screenshots from my video. The second image (from a professional's video) looks smoother (less pixelated) compared to both my images (screenshots from videos). Image 3 looks less pixelated than image 3. If you open the image, you will see how pixelated the girls hair looks. "pixelated" in the closest I can get to describing what I mean by smoothness in the pic. I am an amateur and do not know the photography lingo. – Singh Jan 9 '18 at 1:54
  • @Singh I see no pixelation in any of the samples you have posted. Maybe at more than 1.2MP there may be more in your samples, but at the resolutions you have provided there is no noticeable difference. Are you viewing them at native resolution? Or stretching them to fit your screen, which could be inducing scaling errors? – Michael C Jan 9 '18 at 2:59
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The second one is pretty simple.

Just adjust the color grading. In this case, the white point is not totally bright, but gray, so simply adjust the curves lowering it.

enter image description here

There is a tendency of making videos dark and less contrasted, In my opinion, it is only a trend thing.

The basic idea behind it is that as displays can render brighter whites, in some cases you do not want a too happy image, so you darken it a bit.

APink Music Video

In some cases it is actually the result of using a high bit depth file format, like some RAW video.


The first image is trickier to spot.

It also needs color grading, but it has some obvious illumination issues, mainly because it is backlighted, but also it has a white balance too cold, so it needs to be warmed up.

enter image description here

The blurred background is also hard to spot because it is almost totally flat, so you do not appreciate the bokeh.

You could also have used a reflector to better illuminate the face on this backlight situation.

In this case adjusting the curves gives you a better exposition, without making the whites totally white.

enter image description here


You mentioned "sharpness" on your question. The example image is not sharp at all. But sharpness could be related to the lens or the ISO, but do not be too picky on that.

Try using a tripod if you can and a higher ISO if you can.

Normally the "cinematic look" is not done by using a high framerate, 60p, but a lower one, like 24fps. But that is another issue out of the scope of the forum.

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What is the difference between these shots?

  • The lighting
  • The lighting
  • The lighting
  • The lighting
  • The color grading of the lighting
  • The lighting
  • The lighting
  • The lighting
  • The differences in the contents of the backgrounds
  • The lighting
  • The lighting
  • The lighting
  • The difference between the light striking the subject and the light striking the background of the first image. The other two images have the same light striking both the subject and the background.
  • The lighting
  • The lighting
  • The lighting
  • I'd add the depth of field, too, but I agree with you essentially ;-). – Matthieu Moy Jan 8 '18 at 17:50
  • It's hard to judge the DoF of the first image. There aren't any real details that are out of focus. – Michael C Jan 8 '18 at 17:54
  • Another one would be the pose. Especially the direction where the subjects look. While also the boy's image has its weak points there (e.g. not enough negative space), the direction is clear and pleasing. The girl is looking just somewhere, the direction is not clear and therefore much harder to understand/accept for the viewer. The interaction with the environment is also more clear in the boy's picture, it's walking along a fence, probably towards something/somebody known. What the girl is doing is not clear. Also the cutted hands are not pleasing. But may be different when the images move. – Chris Jan 8 '18 at 23:41
  • @Chris Image 1 and 3, as mentioned in my post, are screenshots from the videos I made during my trip. Image 3 is a screenshot from a video I watched of a professional. – Singh Jan 9 '18 at 1:30
  • @MichaelClark that would take care of the contrast in my videos, but what about the smoothness. If you open screenshot 1, you will see that the girl's hair is very pixelated. could that be due to the motion in the video. The girl was passing by me and i just took my camera and started recording her emotion. Even the 3rd image, which is also a screenshot from my video, looks more pixelated than the second image. What could cause that. – Singh Jan 9 '18 at 1:56
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One obvious problem with the picture of the girl is that it is a dark subject against a light background. You always have to think about the light. The foreground of the girl can be lightened in post-processing, but the best answer is to shoot from the right direction and not have such high contrast between foreground and background in the first place.

  • I would like to add/remind that these are screenshots (image 1 and 3) from my video and a professional video (image 2). These are natural shots, so there is no time to frame the subject or lighting. I think my videos are just not that smooth. If you open image 1 and 3, you will see what I mean. – Singh Jan 9 '18 at 1:46
  • A "professionally" done video always considers the lighting. Light is what makes a video look the way it does! – Michael C Jan 10 '18 at 1:38
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To get warmer skin colors like in Shot 2 you may want to set white balance to Cloudy in the camera during shooting a video. To be more precise use Custom white balance (usually described in the camera manual).

Dynamic range is another problem with Shot 1. The bright background is "overburning" the image taking color depth from the face to catch details in the background. Newer cameras have HDR or WDR setting "on" to fix it automatically. Else you may try to increase the brightness level, to make face more expressive (this will make the background almost completely white) or not shooting against bright backgrounds.

Both problems are also fixable in photo software by using Levels, Gray Point and Skin Color (using those is a separate story).

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